Creating and finding those inspirational managers for our teams – a Cambridge Network event

People leave their managers not their companies

“70% of people leave their managers or supervisors, not their company”.  These were some of the research findings shared with us this morning by Sue Gibson, Human Resources Consultant at DoubleG Assosiates LLP, in a Cambridge Network Breakfast meeting on retention and motivation of staff.  She also told us that mediocre managers can do a lot of damage ‘under the radar’ and can pass on stress and stifle employee engagement through inappropriate authoritarian attitudes.

As a trainer and consultant who focuses on ways to relieve the pain of people in teams, by working with inspirational managers who want to improve the way they support team members, as well as equipping the team with tools to improve their work, I was very interested to learn more about this topic!

So what makes for an inspirational manager?

We all shared our own experiences of those managers that we remember to this day or, as Sue described, ‘have a following’.  Those that have inspired us:

  • Have vision
  • Can relate and communicate with everyone in their team
  • Empower individuals
  • Speak from the heart, with passion about what they are doing
  • Have integrity
  • Are happy to recruit people better than themselves
  • Focus on the career progression of the people in their teams

They are also, in the words of one of the delegates who is a school governor: “a critical friend”.  They will give honest, timely, constructive feedback, and are consistent in doing so.

technical competence is not a criterion for becoming a manager

We have all come across situations where people have been promoted to management roles as the only route to reward their technical competence, and that of course is not necessarily the right solution.

People forced into a management route will not necessarily have the passion or aptitude for it and may spend their time trying to find opportunities to still use their technical skills.

Enlightened organisations, and there were some in the room, have developed 2 branches for promotion, so that people can progress according to their preference and strength along a technical or a management route.

How to find and develop those inspirational managers

Sue described how one organisation she supports identifies their existing inspirational managers and asks them to act as talent scouts to spot potential new talent.  These people can then choose whether or not they would like to progress up a management or a technical chain and trains them accordingly for active succession planning.

Another delegate described how they use a buddy system for new managers to help them get up to speed more quickly and effectively.

There was a general consensus that some form of active management training is needed, rather than expecting managers to just learn on the job.

other key considerations for retention and motivation

The seminar was not just about inspirational managers, but about what can be done to retain staff.  Sue stressed that this is not about rules, processes or restrictions but about getting a number of things right.  Her list included:

  • Culture
  • Interesting work
  • Development
  • The mindset of leaders and managers (which brings us back to the earlier points on inspirational managers)
  • Making sure that people know what is expected of them
  • Having clear organisational goals
  • Pay
  • Benefits

We discussed examples of individuals writing their own objectives based on the organisational goals and relating to performance (things they need to do for the job) and also their own personal development.  In Sue’s experience people have also been asked to assess their own performance against their objectives.  I mentioned that this had hints of the situation at Morning Star described by Gary Hamel in the Harvard Business Review, which I wrote about in one of my other blogs: “Why is employee engagement such an important topic?”

We also discussed the importance of showing people that they are valued, and giving managers the scope and authority to show recognition.  Sue gave examples of giving someone a meal out with their partner, including making babysitting arrangements with a professional Nanny, or paying for a week-ends Italian lessons for someone who wanted to learn. As she pointed out, the cost of these kind of recognition packages are far less than the value delivered by an employee going beyond routine requirements, or indeed the cost of replacing someone and of the knowledge lost when they leave.

In the work that I do with teams, retention and motivation is also about creating an environment where people can thrive, where they have time to think and be creative as a result of being able to focus on the key priorities of their business.

managers need to be aware of generational differences in their staff

This is a fascinating area to explore.  I didn’t quite catch everything Sue was saying at this point, so some of the following notes are a bit improvised, but it was along the lines that those aged between 30 – 40 expect to be taught, are generally technology ‘savvy’, will be tolerant of their managers and are OK about change.

Those aged 30 years and under though are more likely to teach themselves, are technology ‘wise’, will work hard if they are interested, expect their managers to collaborate with them (because they are equal) and are likely to be more actively mobile.

So these considerations reinforce what we already know, that managers need to understand their staff and relate to them as individuals, in order to manage them well.

Concluding thoughts

We finished with some discussions in small groups.  Some of the thoughts that came out of these were:

  • In small organisations, when people go on holiday, it gives those left in charge the opportunity to develop. (We’d touched earlier on the importance of giving people challenges outside their comfort zones for the same reason.)
  • There seems to be an optimum ratio of 1 manager to 8-10 staff in order to be able to build rapport, engage with team members and generally manage them well
  • Managers can be blockers!
  • The importance of empowering staff to improve the way they work as they are the ones who will best understand the opportunities to do so.
  • In start-ups, HR should be a foundation stone, not an add on: people can be the biggest asset, as well as the biggest cost!

Were you at this seminar?  If so, and you’d like to add any material that I’ve missed, do feel free to do so as a comment.  Also, if you think I’ve misinterpreted anything that was said, do please set me right!


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).

3 thoughts on “Creating and finding those inspirational managers for our teams – a Cambridge Network event”

  1. elisabethgoodman

    Just been reading Simon Neville’s interview of Kim Winser in The Observer, 3rd Feb 2013, Business pages (p.41). Kim Winser is the former commercial director of M&S and is launching her own online company, for women’s clothes, Winser London. She reinforces one of the points Sue made about inspirational managers being happy to recruit people who are better than themselves. She says: “I think the best thing is to recruit people who are better than you, then you’ve got experts in every field in your team. Unfortunately, I see sometimes that CEOS, and chairmen whom I don’t admire want to recruit people who are weaker than them because they are a bit frightened about people being too good, and are unable to admit they might have some weaknesses – which is bizarre because we can’t all be perfect at everything.”

  2. “Creating and finding those inspirational managers for our teams – a
    Cambridge Network event | Elisabeth Goodman’s Blog” was a great blog post and I ended up being extremely joyful to read the article. Thanks for your effort,Nan

  3. Pingback: Creating and finding those inspirational managers for our teams - a Cambridge Network event | Organization Survival Playbook |

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